Under the Bed (2012)

underthebed03If I’ve learned anything from watching Bates Motel, it is that if you are a rebellious teen guy, new in town, who has emotional and criminal problems possibly involving death, the hottest girls in town will be all over you.  Smoking Marlboros is a bonus.  Actually, I think I already mostly knew that.

Teen Neal Hausman is being driven back home by his father after spending a couple of years with his aunt.  Seems that Neal had some problems after the death of his mother in a mysterious fire.

Mr. Hausman, who looks distractingly like Zach Galifianakis, is bringing Neal home to meet the new Mrs. Hausman and to reunite with his little brother Paulie.  At a party in his honor, he meets new-mother Angela, played MILFtacularly by Musetta Vander, the she-mantis teacher from Buffy.  He also sees one of the aforementioned red-hot teen babes, Cara; and her brothers who are the live action versions of Rod & Todd Flanders.  Actually, their dad is not far off from Ned, either, so maybe it was intentional

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Hot babe #1

Neal finds Paulie upstairs.  After not-Zach yells at them for reasons I still don’t understand, Natalie gives them some cash to go to the local diner.  Neal proclaims it to be the coolest place in town which is a pretty sad commentary on this burg.  The waitress is hot teen babe #2 who is all over Neal.

That night, Neal and Paulie begin confronting the thing under the bed.  Using weapons that range from a mop with flashlights attached to it to a chainsaw, they joust with the reptilian / alien / demon / humanoid creature.  The problem is more than a mere portal to hell that can be covered over.  During a sleepover at the Flanderses, the monster makes its usual foggy entrance from beneath the neighbor’s bed.

underthebed05The final 30 minutes ratchets everything up 1000%.  There is suddenly more danger, higher stakes, and no shortage of dead bodies.  Perhaps most tragically, Angela spends the entire last act in a robe, and the opportunity is squandered.

Pauly is dragged under the bed to “the other side”.  This is right out of Insidious, Poltergeist, TZ’s Little Girl Lost and countless others (which is what you say when you can’t think of even one more).  Not much time or effort is spent on the hellish other side, but that is fine.  It is other-worldly enough and gives Neal a chance to be a hero.  Ultimately, they are saved by Mom.  Not Angela, but their dead  biological Mom.

This Kind of movie movie both excites and pisses me off.  Expecting it to be mediocre, I let it tie up one of my Netflix slots for a week.  But then when I watched it — gold!  I could nitpick the origin, motivation and design of the creature.  I could also question why the father was such a jerk.  But I’m just looking to be entertained, and it delivered.

I rate this one King-Size

Post-Post:

  • Also worth checking out is director Steven C. Miller’s previous film The Aggression Scale.  Much lower budget and less polish, but a fun ride.  I look forward to more work from him.
  • Written by Eric Stolze, not Eric Stoltz.  I thought Stoltz had dropped off the face of the earth, but he is all over the place — just nowhere I ever see him.

Night Gallery – Eyes (S1P2)

ngeyes03

Yikes!

aka The one Steven Spielberg directed.  No doubt Rod Serling was the draw for this movie when it aired, and maybe there were some lingering Joan Crawford fans.  But a few years later, Steven Spielberg is the main reason anyone would remember this episode, and he maybe serves as a gateway for the entire series.

Joan Crawford is “a blind queen who reigns in a carpeted penthouse on 5th Avenue.  An imperious, predatory dowager.”  She has summoned her personal doctor to her apartment building where she is the only resident.  It is not clear whether this is by design or just no other tenants would be willing to live this close to her.

She has heard of a new procedure that could possibly restore her sight.  It has only been attempted on a chimp and a dog, and restored their sight for just a few hours.  The doctor says it is still experimental, but Joan is convinced it will work on a human.  And, by the way, she would need a donor willing to give up their sight for the test of their life to provide her a few hours of sight.

Her lawyer has found a man who would donate his eyes for the grand sum of $9,000.  The doctor is repulsed by the thought, but Joan blackmails him into performing the surgery.

ngeyes04We cut to Tom Bosley channeling Lou Costello.  He is in a playground explaining to the world’s least intimidating loan-shark why he doesn’t have his cash.  The knuckle-breaker has him on a kid’s Lazy Susan spinning him around; if he doesn’t come up with the dough, it could result in a Dutch Rub.

Bosley tells him that he has $9,000 coming to him which will exactly clear his debt.  Bosley later makes it clear that he will commit suicide after the operation.  So he is a real sport to take care of his gambling debt first.  Some pricks might have stiffed the bookie and left the cash to a children’s hospital.

Apparently hospitals back then were just like today — hours after having experimental surgery on her eyes, Crawford is discharged and sent home.

She begins unwrapping the bandages and when her eyes are exposed, she is able to see for the first time in her life.  This being a Rod Serling joint, that can’t be allowed to stand.  In a twist very reminiscent of TZ’s Time Enough at Last, there is a blackout of the city which again plunges her into darkness.  NYC had just had a massive blackout four years earlier, so this was not a crazy concept to the audience.

ngeyes02It is possible to be churlish and point out the flaws in what follows.   So I will.  OK, there is a blackout, but how did it become bottom-of-a-coal-mine-pitch-black?  Her apartment has windows.  She even stumbles down the stairs and outside, but is stopped by a fence.  Panning up a few feet over the fence, a street scene shows plenty of light from the moon and car headlights.

Distraught, she is furious at the doctor as she believes he botched the operation.  She makes her way back up to her apartment.  She wakes up in the morning, and is able to see the sun rising over the New York skyline.  She is enthralled by its beauty, but it is short-lived as her sight begins to fade.  Her sight lasted 11 hours and it was stolen by the blackout and squandered on sleep.

In several ways, it is easy to believe this is the work of a 21 year old first-time director — but I mean that in the best possible way.  There are shots and camera tricks here that a veteran — including the older Spielberg — might have avoided:  Jump cuts, shooting a reflection through a bead on the chandelier, a spinning chair fading into the Lazy Susan, the stark color of Joan Crawford in a red dress stumbling around a totally black background to indicate her blindness, focusing on innocuous items such as a manila envelope or light switch.

My favorite is the scene above where Spielberg allows it to play out with the blind Joan Crawford addressing the doctor at the spot where he had stood earlier, not realizing he has moved.  Would Grampa Spielberg have left that in?  I’m not sure.  I am baffled why artists tend to smooth everything out as they age.  Writers seem to think a plot cheapens a novel, composers plod along and never establish a tune, and directors avoid the flair that makes movies fun.

I rate it a 20/20.

Post-Post:

  • Maybe Joan Crawford considered this slumming after her stellar movie career.  But she could have gone out on a high note had she not made one last movie after this one.
  • She has great blue eyes and spent 99% of her career in B&W movies.  No wonder she was so pissed all the time.
  • Crawford plays Claudia Menlo; Thomas Edison was known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park.”
  • Steven Spielberg talking about the episode:

 

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

dayearth201Making this up as I go, I am invoking the haven’t-seen-in-20-years clause in order to qualify this film.  And by invoking, I mean inventing.

From the opening seconds, with the blocky title and the weirdo theremin music, this is chewy 50’s sci-fi goodness.  It is already more interesting than the remake, if only as a piece of history.

A UFO is approaching the earth at 4,000 MPH.  This is really poking along compared to the 18,6000 miles per second velocity in remake.  All over the world, dames and men in hats are listening to the radio for updates on the bogey.

On a lovely day in Washington DC, a saucer flies past several monuments, and lands in a park near the White House.  As a behatted newsman is describing the scene, a ramp extends from the saucer and a doorway opens up.

dayearth203A humanoid in a spacesuit walks out and says, “We have come to visit you in peace and with goodwill.”  He pulls something out of his pocket, and is shot by one of the soldiers.  Suddenly the robot GORT emerges from the ship.  The spaceship and the alien just seemed to reel in the crowd, but GORT gets the civilians running and the soldiers backing up.  GORT’s visor opens, and shoots beams at the weapons, destroying them.  The wounded spaceman orders him to stop.

He stands and hands the damaged gift to a soldier.  He says it was a gift to enable the president to study life on other planets, then is taken to Walter Reed Hospital.  Ignorant of our ways, he believes checking into the V.A. will actually improve his chances of survival.

The spaceman, Klaatu, says he has traveled for 5 months and 250 million miles to reach earth.   He says we are neighbors, and it is assumed by the hat-wearing press that he is from Mars or Venus.  250M miles is too far for either of those planets.  I know there was no internet, but did the writer not have an almanac, or did noone involved remember basic science from elementary school?  Twilight Zone had this problem too.

Apparently wanting to address all world leaders in the most corrupt and ineffectual setting possible, he asks for an audience with the United Nations.

Meanwhile, since Klaatu foolishly left his saucer in downtown DC overnight, it is getting blowtorched, and GORT is being roughed up with a diamond drill.  Unlike AL GORT in the remake, the drill has no effect on this GORT.

Klaatu heals his wound by applying a miracle salve, just as in the remake.  He escapes from the hospital and takes a room at a boarding house.  One of the other residents shares the name Helen Benson with Jennifer Carpenter in the remake.  Both Helens have a son, although the name was changed from Bobby to Jacob in the remake, and he was made completely obnoxious.

In both movies, the kid drags Klaatu to his father’s grave.  Bobby trades $2 for 2 diamonds.  So he is not only less obnoxious than Jacob, but smarter.  They go to Lincoln Memorial.

Klaatu and Bobby go to see professional smart guy Professor Barnhardt (whose first name Jacob was mysteriously used for the Bobby character in the remake).  In both movies, Klaatu goes all Good Will Hunting on a blackboard.

He says that we have started using atomic power and will soon apply it to space travel, endangering other planets.  If earth does not listen, it may be necessary to for his race to take action.  The professor asks if a demonstration is possible.

dayearth202Klaatu sneaks back to his ship, and signals GORT to knock out the guards.  Bobby’s sees this and tells him mom.

The next day all motors and electricity on earth stop, trapping Klaatu in an elevator with Helen. Unlike the remake, exceptions were made for hospitals and planes in flight.

On his way back to the ship, Klaatu is shot.  Again.  Helen delivers the message to GORT, Klaatu Barada Nikto.  GORT carries her into the ship.  He also retrieves Klaatu’s body, which he is able to resurrect.

As Professor Barnhardt is addressing the crowd, Klaatu emerges from the ship. He says the threat of human aggression can no longer be tolerated.  If earth is not less aggressive, they will burn our planet to a cinder.

Maybe they can make some krazee ships and robots, but we’re miles ahead of them in irony.

Post-Post:

  • Writer Edmund H. North won an Oscar for the screenplay for Patton.
  • Not to blame the victim, but Klaatu clearly did not need the helmet and spacesuit when he emerged from the ship.  Maybe he wouldn’t have been shot if he had looked a little more human.

Tales from the Crypt – Cutting Cards (S2E3)

tftccountingcards04After watching the archaic, completely artless Teenage Zombies, the opening to Tales from the Crypt — simple as it is — is nothing short of electrifying.  And, by “opening”, I mean skipping the odious Crypt-Keeper and diving right into the story.

Sure, it has the advantage of color, but it also uses music and just a few establishing shots to set the tone.  A big-ass Cadillac driven by a dude in a big-ass cowboy hat, boots hitting the ground, a spin of the roulette wheel, the wheels on a slot machine.  None of these are budget-busters or require editing genius, but put the right music — even carefully chosen stock music — underneath them, and it makes the difference between film-making and pointing a camera.

tftccountingcards02It also helps when the cowboy, Reno Crevice, is played by Lance Henricksen, but then the budget starts taking a hit; although from some of the crap I’ve seen him in, maybe not a big one.  He has a drink in the casino, and is warned that Sam Forney (Kevin Tighe) is a guy to look out for.  They have tangled before, so Crevice goes directly to challenge him.

Crevice is a little short on funds, so the stakes for the wager are loser must leave town.  Crevice rolls a 12, but Forney matches him.

Increasingly agitated, Crevice suggests Russian Roulette.  Forney provides a revolver and Crevice loads a single bullet, pronouncing it to be “5 to 1 odds.”  They take turns clicking off shots until the final chamber, which misfires.

tftccountingcards03Determined to see this through, they next try cards, using their fingers as the stakes.

Henricksen and Tighe are both excellent, playing up the campy roles while retaining the danger.  The episode is also very well directed by Walter Hill.  And the ending . . . er,  it’s very well done.  It’s the kind of thing you’ll like if you like that kind of thing.  It was too much of a downer for me, but I appreciate its quality.

Lost me at the end, but I still rate this one Aces.

Post-Post:

  • At 20:12, this has got to be one of the shortest episodes.  But God bless them for not padding it out .
  • Roy Brocksmith plays a bartender.  Following the AHP policy of recycling actors, he was just in the previous episode.
  • Seems like Kevin Tighe went from a go-to good guy in his younger years to a go-to bad guy.  He is great playing the asshole, though, most recently seen as Anthony Cooper in Lost.
  • Not sure what is going on with writer Mae Woods.  She only has 3 writing credits on IMDb.  All 3 are on Tales from the Crypt, and 2 of the 3 were directed by Walter Hill.  She is also list as Hill’s assistant on several of his movies.
  • Not to be a spoil-sport, but when you’re playing Russian Roulette with a revolver, can’t you see which chamber the bullet is in, or at least rule out a few of them?

Teenage Zombies (1960)

teenagezombies0220 Movies for $5; What could possibly go wrong?  Part XI.

This was a huge letdown almost immediately.  The title had me anticipating something very different.  Well, at least it was only 73 minutes.

The gang is hanging out at the ‘ol Campus House malt shop.  One of them suggests a picnic lunch on an island that no one has ever realized was just off the coast.  In the next shot, they are lounging on the beach.  Their small boat is anchored 25 yards off of the beach, yet none of the group seems to be wet.  And that is a shame as the girls are pretty hot.

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Lilly of the Field, not toiling.

They follow a path and see zombies — more like lumbering workers — toiling in the field overseen by a women who looks like Lilly Munster.

I have to hand it to this film, White Zombie and King of the Zombies — they have at least harnessed the zombies to do something productive.  Walking Dead could learn a lesson here.

The youts bolt, but discover their boat is gone.  They go to a nearby house where Lilly meets them at the door.  While talking, they hear the girls screaming.  Soon they are locked in a cage with the girls.

A couple of Men in Black go to the island.  They inquire about the production of  5,000 capsules which will be used to subdue the US population.  If they are not ready, they must rely on hydrogen bombs to complete their mission.  Really seems like there would have been an alternative somewhere in the middle.  Luckily Lilly has the 4 teenagers to use as guinea pigs — presumably for the drugs, not the H-bombs.

teenagezombies0

Is this the Sheriff or a picture of the Sheriff?

There is a lot of walking, boating, and a gorilla.  And that makes it sound more interesting than it actually was.

Definitely one of the worst movies in the collection, not worthy of further discussion. Clearly, it is in the collection due to its public domain status, and in this blog due a slavish obsession with completeness.

Post-Post:

  • Available for download at You Tube and Internet Archive, but why would ya?
  • One of the boys says he is from Compton.  I got nuthin’.
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C’mon, a payphone mounted on a louvered panel? I guess Mom didn’t want her big-shot director putting holes in the wall.